Do Your Own Composting
Compost is a valuable addition to many community gardens. When mixed with the existing soil, which comprises clay colloids with poor permeability and little organic matter, it helps plants to grow better. It literally gives life to the soil by injecting organic microbes to make the soil self-sustaining, brimming with the good elements that a plant needs. The best compost can be found in the under-storey of most tropical primary rainforests. An easier alternative would be to purchase it from nurseries or try making it on your own.
Compost usually comes in two forms:
- Fine compost, which is good for mixing with existing soil to rejuvenate it
- Coarser compost / uncompleted compost, which is suitable for use as mulch.
There are many ways to make compost, some of which are more practical for gardeners in Singapore. You can read about the technical details in this article on the Community In Bloom webpage.
Two of our local community gardens have shared some practical tips from their own experiences in making compost.
- Tentera Di-Raja Mosque Community Garden
This community garden's approach to making compost is practical and simple. It can be used in other gardens which have lots of leaf litter from trees and grass clippings. The gardeners use the aerobic composting method, where introducing air into the compost mix is essential for the composting process.
Materials Items Uses Wooden boxes made from crates The wooden boxes are made from discarded crates and wooden pallets. The boxes are made with gaps in between each plank panel, to promote air circulation and aeration of the compost Black plastic bags The community gardeners stuff grass clippings and dry leaves in these bags together with some top soil, and let them sit outdoors. Each bag has several holes pierced in it to promote aeration. Once a month, the bags will be tumbled to mix the contents. Baskets Old baskets are useful for layering all your horticulture waste. The grooves in the baskets will provide the required aeration. Dry leaves To provide the compost's brown ratio, the gardeners make use of the dry leaves that are readily available around the mosque. Grass clippings To provide the compost's green ratio, the gardeners add grass clippings into the compost container. Top soil & compost Lastly, to enhance the compost mix, they add spare compost and good top soil to increase the organic matter in the new compost batch.
- Bishan Home Community Garden
This community garden has a pre-made compost bin. If you can spare the space, consider investing in such a bin. It is useful and looks good in the garden, even though it adds to the cost of composting. The Bishan Home community gardeners also use the aerobic composting method. They mix horticulture waste and vegetable scraps from the kitchen into the bin, then add some organic matter (top soil and compost) with a bit of fertiliser to accelerate the process.
Materials Items Uses Turnable compost bin This compost bin sits on an A- frame. The lids on both sides have holes to drain excess rain water. Once a month the residents will turn the bin a couple of times. An advantage is that their hands remain clean. Horticulture waste & vegetable scraps The gardeners add dry leaves and vegetable scraps into the bins, to form the brown to green ratio needed to make good compost. Top Soil & compost To enhance the compost mix, they add spare compost and good top soil to increase the organic matter in the new compost batch. Fertilisers Lastly, to boost the nutrient level and speed up the composting process, a small amount of processed chicken manure is added into the mixture.
Based on the materials used, you may have realised compost requires some strong-smelling components. Don't let the initial smell put you off, because the end product of a good compost mixture will be odourless.
By adopting the methods used in these two community gardens, you too can make use of homemade compost in your home or community garden.
By Muhammad Haidir bin Aman
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